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‘Yule Log’ on Adult Swim: Interview with Casper Kelly

If you know anything about adult swimming, you know it’s best to raise an eyebrow when they describe something as “comfortable”. This is especially true of Christmas logthe network’s endless horror feature that was created after rick and morty The season 6 finale. Major spoilers ahead.

“I was watching the yule log last, and you’re looking at this close-up of the fireplace. Then, for some reason, I just imagined, “What if you saw those legs walking in the foreground, sort of blurry?” And you start hearing dialogue and you’re like, ‘Wait, what’s going on?’ »Casper Kelly, Christmas log’s writer and director, told Decider.

As surprising as Christmas log perhaps for late-night viewers, that’s not unusual when it comes to Kelly’s relationship with Adult Swim. Over the years, the Your pretty face is going to hell The creator released three surprise shorts for the network: 2020’s “Danny Ketchup,” 2018’s “Final Deployment 4: Queen Battle Walkthrough,” and his most well-known short, 2014’s “Too Many Cooks.” had an idea for another one of those surprise drops, he went to Adult Swim instead of the other way around.

“I pitched this premise to Adult Swim as a 4 a.m. thing. And they’re like, ‘Yeah, OK, we like that,’” Kelly explained. “Then, for some reason, without having any idea what was going to happen, I was like, ‘Hey, how about we make a movie of this?’ And they said to me, ‘If you can do it for about the same amount of money, we could probably find a little more money for you. Yeah, let’s try. And so this is their first movie ever. live action.

Yule Log on Adult Swim
Photo: Swimming for adults

The feature begins exactly as Kelly described it: as a peaceful yule log crackles, you hear a woman talking. Minutes later, you’re still compelled to stare at that log as you hear this woman being brutally murdered by a Leatherface-esque mother and adult son. It just spirals into darker, more bizarre depths from there. Surprisingly, almost everything in Kelly’s original script makes it onto the screen. In addition to The Texas Chainsaw MassacreKelly drew inspiration from horror classics, like Halloween, Friday the 13thand evil Dead while drawing inspiration from the work of more twisted creators such as David Lynch, Nicolas Winding Refn and Panos Cosmatos. The end result is a film that skirts the lines between horror schlock, true terror, and absurd comedy.

True to form, this balance results in Christmas log’s practical effects. After all, it was the man who was responsible for Mandy’s Cheddar Goblin advertisement. For Kelly, finding the line between horrifying and ridiculous when it comes to an accessory like a battered skull requires a lot of tweaking.

“It’s like, ‘OK, could you try to get his eyeballs bigger? Can we make him scream for three minutes? Oh, that’s too long. So we’ll cut it down and edit where it’s It’s a minute,” Kelly said. “It’s unrelated, but I just found out maybe a few years ago that I have a kind of aphantasia where I can’t visualize things. , which is weird for a director. I can sort of do it, but not as well as everyone else seems to do… I just have to see things and try them and then adapt.

Despite its striking tone and effects, it’s the themes at the center of this film that make it a uniquely Kelly project. Consistently, Kelly’s work has been defined by both its absurdity and its underlying depth. As funny as “Too Many Cooks” was, it was also a prescient mockery of our obsessive need to consume television. Likewise, “Final Deployment” ends with an uncomfortable multi-streamer monologue in which its characters wonder if there’s more to their limited lives.

Christmas log tackles equally uncomfortable territory through the idea of ​​temporal privilege. As the film’s current characters try to figure out who or what murderous villains are targeting them, the film cuts to different scenes from different decades in front of the same fireplace. In these moments, elements of Christmas log the main narrative we take for granted, like Zoe (Andrea Laing) and Alex’s (Justin Miles) interracial relationship, suddenly becomes a sharp luxury. America’s sordid history with slavery, homophobia and sexism is hidden in Christmas log’s shadows like another killer.

Zoe (Andrea Laing) holding an ax and a gun in Yule Log
Photo: Swimming for adults

“I am a southerner and my parents are from the south. So I think I’m a good person, but if I lived at the time of my ancestors, would I have been a good person? Or would I have just followed what everyone was doing? said Kelly. “So that makes you wonder, in the future, what are people going to say about us? Because I feel like I’m a good person, but maybe they’re going to say “Oh he was awful. He drove a car and didn’t seem to care about global warming even though I did, but not enough not to drive a car.

“This room you’re in, what else happened in this room?” Before being there? Or on this earth? Kelly asked. “It’s just interesting. And how does this influence us in ways we don’t know? »

Kelly admits he was “really nervous” telling a story that ultimately centers on a black woman and the history of slavery in America. “I consulted people; I’m still nervous. But so far, hearing the press, people seem to like it and respond to it as expected. I know it’s hard, and it was really hard for me to write it. I didn’t expect to go there,” Kelly said. “But I just came back to the fact that I believe in the feelings and the questions and the things that I’m trying to say. And even if I don’t say them quite the right way, I want to try to say them, and I want people to think about it and talk about it. I really hoped I did it right.

Another difficult element of this film is the man in the chimney. On several occasions, a little man appears on top of the cursed log and offers the same deal to two different characters: if they follow his instructions, they can change their fates for the better. Both times, this promise turns out to be a ruse. Kelly declined to say explicitly what the man in the fireplace represented. But he agreed when this reporter described him as some kind of queer coded demon that fits into the general theme of temporal privilege.

“There’s another aspect that you didn’t say, but I’ll hold back. But yeah, you’re on the right track,” Kelly said. “I think he does those things to others that he does because he wants to do this to himself. But he can’t be part of the curse, in my mind. He can’t do this to himself. So, in a weird way, he thinks he’s helping people, despite being an evil bastard.

In the end, after battling cursed pieces of wood, deranged murderers, aliens, and fire demons, Christmas log ends with two definitive murders: those of Zoe and Alex. As blunt as that sounded, it was always the one Kelly had in mind.

“I’m a little optimistic, so that [ending] it’s kind of philosophically going against how I feel about life,” Kelly explained. “But at the same time, it’s cathartic. I love that in movies, where it’s a rhythmic ending, and you walk out and feel so relieved to be out of the movie. In fact, dark movies often make me feel better than happy movies. I feel such relief to be out of the movie, and I’m like, ‘Oh, life is so good now. Life is Beautiful.'”

Christmas log is now streaming on HBO Max.

New York Post

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